18 October 2010

Review - Paper Make It! Space Base

Paper Make It! recently advertised their Space Base on TMP. I'm usually not one for paper terrain, but this was something different - a set of rooms and corridors, in the vein of Space Hulk, Doom: The Boardgame, and Space Crusade. It looked fantastic from the pics on the website, and had one thing that set it apart from most other downloadable corridors: it is available in both 28mm and 15mm versions.

I'd been curious for some time now about PMI's other products (notably
Shuffler), so I decided to order the 15mm Space Base as a demo piece. If nothing else, this would give me a ready-to-use rooms and corridors set for my growing 15mm sci-fi collection. The PDF pages looked great on screen, but how would that translate to the printer? Let me show you!

And this isn't really maximizing the full potential of this product. I printed these on recycled cardstock using a color laser printer. If this was printed on a inkjet using a higher quality paper or photo stock, these would look absolutely fantastic (and probably be more durable). The PDF prints eight pages with a very wide assortment of halls, junctions, and rooms. By only printing the main set once (no repeats yet), you get more setup variety than in any of the similar board games.

To make these sections a bit more durable, I used spray adhesive to mount them onto black presentation board from Hobby Lobby. This made them just as durable as any of the "professional" board games. Here's a shot of the mounted components and a comparison of the Space Base against Space Hulk (3rd Edition) and Doom.

The only thing that might be "missing" from this set is a way to interlock the tiles. I thought this would be a problem, but I haven't encountered much slippage on the table yet. I've already played a half dozen games with these rooms using the FUBAR First-Person Shooter variant (currently available in the Forge Of War Yahoo group) and I think they work brilliantly.

So if you've been looking for a great set of rooms and corridors to simulate your favorite alien-infested ships or demon-infested complexes, grab a set of these! A little time with the printer, a few hours with some glue and a knife, and you'll be very impressed with the results.


17 October 2010

Hammer's Slammers-esque 15mm Force

This is what happens when I paint miniatures and watch college football at the same time...

I started a project like this with 40k Space Marines a few years back. It never took off (no surprise, since I already had armies coming out of my ears), but I always wanted to revisit it at some point. Getting into 15mm Sci-Fi and away from the 40k universe made it a bit less practical, but the desire was still there.

I also wanted to do a Hammer's Slammers centered around the excellent Old Crow minis. I picked up a Blower tank, a Combat Car, and a pack of Jeeps this summer, but never did decide on a paint scheme or what to use for accompanying infantry. I also picked up a few packs of NAC Infantry from Ground Zero Games earlier this year... same problem: I never knew how I was going to paint them or how they were going to fit into my various gaming worlds.

Inspiration finally hit me last week, and I painted a sample NAC rifle trooper in Nebraska Cornhusker colors. I liked it and decided to finish a squad, along with some vehicle support. Originally I was going to use the famous Matchbox SWAT vehicle for these, and only use this force in fun one-off games. After basecoating the SWAT vehicle, I noticed the Slammers stuff sitting on my desk, and figured hey, why not?

I used Vallejo game color and black Wonder Wash on this project. It's also the first sci-fi force I've ever finished with green flock. Even though all my tables are snow or desert, it just didn't seem right not putting the Huskers on green turf. :)

In my Conquest System game world, these will be a for-hire mercenary branch of the Aurora Corporation. Or if I would rather game in an established setting, there's no reason I couldn't use these as Hammer's Slammers right out of the book.

I have another eight NAC rifle infantry to add, along with a pack of the GZG one-man skimmers. Other than that I'll have to shop before I can expand this army. Looks like Old Crow and/or GZG are getting next month's gaming budget...


10 October 2010

15mm Patrol - Felids and Protolene Vehicles

After posting this entry, I decided to make a change to my Khurasan Felid paint scheme. The blue and gray appearance was too similar to the Fenris Gray used on my Critical Mass Protolene infantry - and we certainly can't have dogs and cats looking anything alike! I repainted the Felid armor with Citadel Foundation Hormagaunt Purple and liked the result.

I decided it was time to add some vehicles to this growing force. In my Conquest System gaming world, the Felids play the role of the Sulians, who come from a very mountainous world. The Khurasan Lion transport (intended for use with their Felids) is a great model, and I'm sure I will find use for them later. But my Sulians need walkers for rocky and uneven terrain. I looked at the available 15mm walkers and chose the Protolene Khanate vehicles from Critical Mass Games. The smaller Ayame battlesuits are perfect light vehicles, while the Marrok battlesuits will fill the tank role within this force. The Tamaska/Fenrir is just a little too canine for this army, so I'm still not sure what to use in the transport role. I'm actually considering making the Sulians an all drop-pod based force just to give myself some gaming variety, but nothing is settled yet.

Here's a glimpse of the finished patrol (larger picture here since Blogger and I aren't getting along today). The specific minis used are a nine-cat Khurasan Felid light battle circle (I either didn't receive the tenth cat, or it fell victim to a piece of predatory furniture), three Ayame scout battlesuits, and a Marrok hunter battlesuit. The next additions will be more infantry (another light circle, a heavy circle, and a baron), and eventually I'd like to add another set of Ayame scout battlesuits, a set of Ayame predator close combat battlesuits, and another Marrok. I'm thinking the next Marrok will be a scout variant, and I will pop one cannon off my Hunter and assemble two complete Marroks with different weapons on each arm.

I also need to cut a new base for my existing Marrok. I just needed something quick to assemble and paint the model, so I grabbed a handy scrap of acrylic. I'm going to cut a 50mm x 50mm square base for the final version, so it will be a legal model in Alien Squad Leader along with my usual games of FUBAR and USE ME.

Look for a report soon to test this patrol in battle!


08 October 2010

Snow Terrain - Step By Step

A quick read through my old pictures and battle reports, and anyone can see that I prefer desert and urban environments in my wargames. I decided it was time for a change! The fictional universe where I've been playing (most of) my 15mm games - the Conquest System - has around twenty planets and moons that were terraformed by the lowest bidder. As such, I've decided each world has a fairly harsh environment; most are too hot, some are too cold. Which means any struggle for resources in the Conquest System will involve some snow planets. I needed enough snow terrain to fight these battles upon.

I tried a few new techniques for my snow, building on skills I've learned doing grassy and desert hills over the years. Since these will be used predominately by 15mm miniatures, I went with 1/2" styrofoam as the basis. The pieces I used in this set were packing material from my toddler's play kitchen - low density, but exactly the thickness I wanted. And easily handled by my trusty old Wonder Cutter.
Then it was a matter of cutting them to the exact shape I need. My favorite commercially-made foam hills are the Acute Hill Pack from War-Zone terrain (3/4 of the way down this page) - well worth the money if you don't to take the time or deal with the mess of making your own. And War-Zone uses good blue insulation foam, so it's quite a bit more durable than the stuff I make. But since I only get four or five small games in a month, these should last a little while. For my initial snow terrain set (which will be a 2' x 2' skirmish board), I cut four acute hills (one with two levels), rough triangles with a bit of a waviness to the cuts.
Nothing pretty, but it works for a quick snow hill. Once the hill is cut it just needs to be painted and textured. I use very inexpensive Wal-Mart craft paints for most of my terrain. I covered the entire hill with (thinned) Folk Art Medium Gray, then painted the entire top with flat white. To add a little bit of depth to it, I drybrushed the "wavy' edges of the hills with the same white.
The next part was really where I had to learn a new technique. For green flocking and desert sand, all I had done at this step was paint 50/50 white glue/water over the top surface, use a dollar-store shaker to apply the texture material, shake away the excess, and seal it when dry. But the Woodland Scenics snow that I bought is far too light, and it floated right off of the mixture. So I ended up pre-mixing it into a paste - it was equal parts snow texture, white glue, and water. It had the consistency of a dry, sugary frosting, and was applied very roughly with an old brush.
I'm fairly pleased with the result. The brush gave the mix a bit of a deeper texture - the end result is very different from simply applying sand and painting it white. I think these will survive just long enough for me to see if I like playing games on snow terrain. If I like it when these start to crumble, I'll probably replace them with the War-Zone stuff (just as I did with my grasslands stuff a few years ago).

And now for the gaming surface itself. I've been playing my recent desert games on 12" x 12" vinyl floor tiles. I figured this should work pretty well for snow terrain. I bought four of these today. The next step will be to give them a very light spray of white paint, and then lightly apply some of the snow terrain. Some of the beige and gray texture should look good peeking through the snow, so I'm not going to go quite as heavy or thick as I did on the hills.
So it's almost ready. A little more work, and I'll have a 2' x 2' snow table with a small assortment of rocky hills. When I expand snow games to a larger table, this set will serve alongside the Critical Mass Games Otillium Refinery set (all of which will have snow bases). A table like that will do a great job repeating some of the fossil fuel battles fought in the Conquest System.

I hope to have a USE ME battle report on the finished mini-table very soon!


02 October 2010

More Rules Fun Pt. 2 - USE ME 15mm Sci-Fi System

15mm.co.uk released USE ME (Ultra Simple Engine for Miniature Engagements) this month, for the very tasty price of £3.50 (about $5.50 US). It promised to be an all-encompassing system - battle rules, army lists, off-table support, campaign setup, and solo play, all in 32 pages. I was quite skeptical, but for that price, I figured it was certainly worth a read. I've had it for two weeks now, and am not disappointed at all in this system.

In fact, I am extremely pleased.

Here is a breakdown of the game system:


This game is specifically designed for 15mm miniatures, in terms of movement and weapon ranges. I'm sure it could be scaled up or down with some simple halving or doubling of ranges and distances, but I already have plenty of 28mm rules. In terms of the size of games you can play... I've only played three smallish games so far (up to the "starter" scenario of 20 light troops and five vehicles vs 30 heavy troops), but it appears USE ME will handle much larger engagements with absolute ease.


First and foremost, I am pleased to report that USE ME uses nothing but ordinary six-sided dice (and a few basic counters) for all of its mechanics. That means you have no need to purchase a bunch of funny shapes just to play a basic game... it's ready to go with something I'm sure you already have. The gameplay itself follows a pretty straightforward initiative-activations-resolution sequence but with a twist - the Elan rating. Despite it's funny name (it sounds like something Acura Motors would sell!), it's a pretty clever stat that governs most aspects of combat and initiative. Thinking of it as "troop qualiity" would help compare it to some other systems.

While many other initiative-activation games allow you to select any unit, USE ME activates units based on their Elan ratings - high Elan troops take their activations before low Elan troops. The only mechanic I can compare this to is the Initiative stat in the 40k Assault phase. It works extremely well! It makes sense to me that the most trained and skilled units will be more decisive and take quicker battlefield action than inexperienced troops.

Combat itself is pretty straightforward - roll to hit, then roll weapon penetration vs target defense. Units hit their targets by scoring 4+ on a D6 roll (after some pretty simple modifiers). Penetration vs defense is a D6 roll off between the firer and his target (again, with some simple modifiers). Close combat is handled by simply removing the To Hit roll and rolling penetration vs defense.

Targets are either winged, struck, or killed outright. These effects last the rest of the game, but are handled with simple counters. There isn't much bookkeeping required outside of the counters, which is what makes me think this game will scale up to company-size engagements without bogging down. There are only four tables you will ever have to look at to play a game of USE ME, which means there isn't much page-flipping in game. In fact, I've already seen a complete quick reference sheet that prints on half a page... exactly what "quick reference" should be!


There is a two-page guide to creating forces - complete with points costs. Rather than saying this mini is a Muster Private armed with a Moth Rifle, you would select an Elan 3, Movement 4 Infantry with a Standard Rifle. This game is a bit like Alien Squad Leader in this way... it abstracts troops, weapons, and vehicles to put them in a few simple categories. While this may lack a little bit of distinct flavor among different armies, it's a great way to make sure forces are fairly well balanced in the game.


A great deal of the book is dedicated to rules such as off-table long-range artillery or supporting spacecraft fire, arrival of reinforcements and drop troops, linking games together (which can even keep some troops in a "winged" status from game to game), and how to govern opposing forces in solo games. Again, it's amazing how much is packed into such a small book! I've now run the solo rules against a defensive and an invading force, and they worked perfectly with such a "one track minded" opponent. I'm going to come up with a neutral objective scenario to really put them to the test!


No system will ever be immune to gripes and complaints. USE ME is clearly designed to be a shooting game. The weapons table has categories to cover every type of firearm, energy blaster, missile, or mortar you could imagine... but no close combat weapons at all. That means you won't be able to use these rules effectively against "bug" armies, like the Starship Troopers movie or Aliens-inspired games. In fact, the lack of close combat detail makes for some interesting situations in the game. The same penetration table is used in close combat as in shooting... which means an autocannon or mortar crew actually scores higher against dedicated assault troops.

Something else that must be considered when preparing for battle is the resilience of heavy vehicles. Infantry with heavy weapons will need nothing short of a dice miracle to even scratch a heavy vehicle, and cannot destroy them outright. If you are going to run vehicles, make sure there are vehicles on both sides of the game if any are to be Heavy or Super Heavy. Otherwise, just make your tanks into Light Vehicles with Armor, or it will be a very lopsided game!


USE ME is designed to be a fast-play set of rules for which you will need minimal preparation, bookkeeping, or special rules. As such, it makes for a great basic wargame. It will never go into extreme science fiction details like net-centric warfare, battlefield intelligence grids, fighting in very extraterrestrial environments, etc... if you want a game with that much detail, you will probably be in the mood for something like Tomorrow's War or 5150. But if you want a quick pickup game to play in an hour, this is exactly what you want - it holds its own extremely well against Forge of War and Mutants and Death Ray Guns, and is far more approachable than Fast and Dirty or Chain Reaction. USE ME is, by far, the most complete one-book game system I've seen in my eighteen years of tabletop wargaming.

FINAL SCORE: 8 out of 10, would jump to a 9 out of 10 if a close combat fix could be added.


PS: There is an alternate review at The Orky 15mm Blog, if you want another opinion!